Penticton’s Raymond James Dragon Boat Festival is spreading its paddles.
The weekend event continues to grow since its inauguration in 2000. Last year, the event attracted 87 teams and organizer Don Mulhall said he had people suggesting they bump the number to 100.
“I have never said the word 100 and Penticton in the same sentence,” joked Mulhall at the time. “At some point we have to stop. I can’t have boats racing from here to Kaleden.”
While heading to Kaleden won’t be the case, 90-plus teams will be racing the 500-metre sprints at Skaha Lake Sept. 8 to 9.
Among those teams will be the Peach City Dragons. Ron Spence, a paddler on the team, said they are aiming to finish in the top three. Spence knows it won’t be easy as they are likely to be in a strong field.
“We have confidence that we can do well,” said Spence, adding that they have won a few events this season, including one in Vernon recently.
Pushing the Peach City Dragons is coach Jen Monai, who Spence said is great.
“She’s so much fun and she’s a hard ass,” said Spence. “She makes us work.”
As for the growth the festival is seeing, Spence said “it’s awesome.”
One of the new teams is the HSBC Flying Dragons, the first in Canada for developmentally disabled adults. They will be participating in their first official race after three months of training. The 21 paddlers and 20 volunteer coaches are ready to rip through the water.
“These talented and enthusiastic paddlers have been working incredibly hard and are-over-the moon excited about this coming weekend. Regardless of their race times, the HSBC Flying Dragons have already finished way ahead of the pack, ” said Flying Dragons coach Mulhall. “I am so proud of them and honoured to be coaching these amazing athletes.”
Spence added there will be several visitors in town this weekend, especially with the city also having the Jazz Festival.
“Teams like to come. People I talk to like the Penticton event,” said Spence. “It’s well organized.”
It’s expected that a record 2,700 paddlers will compete. That makes it the second largest dragon boat festival in B.C.
“This festival has exceeded our expectations, growing from just 12 teams in 2000 to more than 90 this year,” said Mulhall in a release. “It has become one of the most anticipated dragon boat events of the year.”
The festival will see teams of 20 paddlers (plus a drummer and steer-person) from B.C. and Alberta racing the 14-m canoes. Penticton’s female paddlers are expected to be among the top competitors and anticipated to be in Sunday afternoon’s final.
Along with the finals at noon, races on Sunday include the Breast Cancer Survivor finals and carnation ceremony, starting before 11 a.m. Local favourite Survivorship will be looking to win the Dale Charles Memorial cup.
Find full story at www.pentictonwesternnews.com.
The medals and awards, including trophies for top women’s crew, top breast cancer survivor crew, top okanagan crew and top crew overall will be presented in the beverage garden Sunday afternoon.
“We invite the community to come and take part in the festivities and experience the true spirit of dragon boating,” said Mulhall.
The event will also feature a beverage garden, with proceeds to Survivorship, food vendors and a market. The festival will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For more information, go to www.pentictondragonboat.com or gorowandpaddle.org.